The Home Bartender: Technique (Stirring, Shaking & Throwing)

It’s The Home Bartender time! This monthly feature caters to those of you who are not necessarily working bartenders but who are really interested in drinking better cocktails and learning how to make cocktails! Each month our Home Bartender expert, Matej Novak, will run you through a new topic. This month he discusses something very important for when it comes to making drinks: TECHNIQUE!


You can stir a drink. You can shake a drink. You can even throw a drink. In each case, you’re doing three things to your cocktail: 1. Chilling it. 2. Diluting it. 3. Aerating it. Here’s how the three techniques compare and some tips on each one:

Stirring: Because you’re not agitating the liquid very much, this introduces the least amount of air into the drink, but offers the most control in terms of how much dilution you add. Try to keep the back of your barspoon in constant contact with the inside of the glass and move the ice around in a steady, circular motion while the spoon spins between your fingers.

Shaking: This agitates your liquid the most and therefore introduces the most air, creating a drink with a lighter texture. Because a Boston shaker is taller than a three-piece shaker, the ice and drink have further to travel and will generally produce a slightly frothier drink. Regardless of which one you’re using, lay the shaker in your non-dominant hand, place your other hand around it closer to the top (kind of like holding a bazooka, not that I’ve ever done that) and make sure to hold the pieces together. Rock the shaker back and forth as you shake so the liquid travels around in a circular motion (and never shake towards your guests). Bonus tip: If you’re making a sour, a flip or anything with egg, shake without ice first to emulsify the drink, then add your ice and shake again.

Throwing: Speaking of agitation, this doesn’t involve any actual throwing. Using a Boston shaker, add your ingredients and ice to the smaller piece and place a strainer on top. Then all you have to do is a pour the drink back and forth between the two pieces, but the trick is to increase the distance between them so you end up pouring from a height. This creates a drink with a texture somewhere between stirring and shaking. It’s a bit of a showy technique, but not without purpose.

These techniques are a bit hard to describe in words, but luckily someone has made a video showing you how it’s done. Go check it out and then invite your friends over to watch you throw a drink.


Matej Novak
Matej is a writer and cocktail enthusiast living in Kingston, Ontario. He’s annoyed bartenders with endless questions in cities including Toronto, New York, San Francisco, Portland, Prague, London and Tokyo. He’s also amassed more cocktail tools and accoutrements than with which he knows what to do (told you he’s a writer). Don’t be like Matej. Learn from his mistakes — and his successes — instead.
Matej Novak on InstagramMatej Novak on TwitterMatej Novak on Youtube

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